Marching orders

Diana Robinson/Office of the Mayor
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio marching in the 2014 Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Marching orders

Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez's marching orders
June 7, 2017

"I know a secret about you and you know a secret about me. We're principled," Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez said, gesticulating with her hands in my face.

This was the greeting I received last Saturday at the City Limits Diner in White Plains where I was enjoying a late almuerzo with my esposa and our hijo, catching up on a few family matters.

No hello. No “How are you doing?” The embattled chairperson of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade wasn’t wasting any niceties on me. “Principled? Lorraine? There must be a new definition for the word,” I thought, smiling.

I wasn’t about to engage in probing why we were having this face-to-face. I told Lorraine I would call her later.

“Oh, no. I’m not talking to you,” she said as she turned her back to me and walked a few steps to sit in the adjoining booth.

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Her amigo that day, already sitting and smiling at the exchange, was Roberto Ramírez – the Ram half of the political consulting firm MirRam Group – who had arrived by himself about 15 minutes earlier. Ramírez, was sporting a tight black tee shirt with bold white letters that read in two lines where his six-pack once laid: "Esto se jodió" (this got screwed up). After the obligatory hello, I asked if I could take a photo of him. “Only if you don’t post it,” said the panzón former state assemblyman.

What the hell were these two up to? Here we were, seven days before the big event on June 11 – the National Puerto Rican Day Parade – and these two old foxes were trying to play like they had not a care in the world.

As much as I tried to concentrate on the conversation in our booth, my oido strained to pick up a word that would give me a clue.

Whatever the conversation was while I was present must have switched to Oscar López Rivera at some point. After all, the news cycle was still abuzz after the freed Puerto Rican patriot had announced two days earlier that he would march in the parade as a puertorriqueño and abuelo without the title “National Freedom Hero,” which Lorraine and the parade’s board of directors had bestowed him.

Were they discussing how Lorraine could spin her succumbing to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ultimatum of getting rid of Oscar’s “hero” designation? Perhaps they wanted to counter the notion that she put her personal interests above the integrity of her fellow board members in order to please her boss, the mayor?

If they did work out a strategy for her unforgivable sellout, it didn't last long. The mayor on Monday disclosed that he had threatened to not march in the parade if López Rivera’s formal participation was still an issue, arrogantly assuming that his own presence, or that of any politician, has ever mattered at the annual celebration.

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Whatever the reason the two met, it’s clear that Lorraine was seeking the advice of her former boss. Let’s face it, Ramírez was a master political chess player during his tenure in the Assembly from 1990-2000, where Lorraine was his chief of staff in the ethically challenged Legislature. This was the same time that Ramírez chaired the Bronx Democratic County Organization, the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force and the state Social Services Committee – of course, all while holding a day job of counsel to a law firm.

Like a pulpo, Ramírez was quite adept at juggling multiple responsibilities. In fact, I once told the Super Hombre that at some point he was going to do something illegal. I reasoned that no one could be loyal to so many competing interests – at some point you’re going to do something illegal and end up on the front page of El Diario and other tabloids. He was incensed at my remark.

Which brings me back to Lorraine considering herself “principled.” How can she view herself that way when it has become increasingly difficult for her to separate de Blasio’s interests with her moral obligation as chairperson of a 60-year-old Puerto Rican institution that she was supposed to rid of unscrupulous conduct? 

Lorraine fails to recognize that her conflict of interests is immoral. Her unprincipled actions have rendered her incapable of recognizing right from wrong. At least two board members have already resigned. There’s bochinche that others will follow suit.

Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, the former New York secretary of state, has many qualities. A “principled” individual she is not.

Gerson Borrero